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Mack the Flack

Our blog, Mack the Flack, explores PR, journalism, and communications trends in the digital age

Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

The Boring Conference

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Summer is almost here, marking the official kick off of the conference season. Mack is heading to a conference in Halifax where he plans to learn new stuff, connect with interesting colleagues and eat too much lobster.

But all conferences carry a risk of getting stuck in a session with a mind-numbingly dull PowerPoint presentation.

This is a guarantee at the Boring Conference – a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary and the overlooked, held in London last week.

According to founder James Ward, this year’s 4th annual Boring Conference featured 20 speakers giving 10 minute talks on everything from inkjet printers of 1999 and German film titles to cooking meals with equipment found in hotel bedrooms and a comparison of 198 national anthems.

James knows of which he speaks. Later this year he’s publishing a book called Adventures in Stationery.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Mack spent the May long weekend working on projects at his cabin in the mountains. One such job, replacing rotted stairs, required some careful measuring.

“Measure twice and cut once” is the old carpenter’s adage. Something the French National Railway, SNCF, should have heeded.

SNCF has ordered 2,000 new high-speed trains that are too big for 1,300 station platforms. The company’s failure to measure twice will cost more than $74 million: they need to modify 1/6 of all platforms across the country. At some stations, two new trains can’t pass each other on adjacent rails.

The rail operator failed to verify all platform measurements before it ordered the new trains.  They checked the dimensions of platforms built in the last 30 years, but not built more than 50 years ago.

In the digital age, a simple tape measure still has its uses.

Buying Staples in the Internet Age

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Doing business in the age of the Internet has created many opportunities. At the same time, it has shaken many legacy industries—from music to movies, publishing to photography, newspapers to real estate—to their cores.

The latest digital casualty is the office supplies sector. In Canada, Grand & Toy, recently bought out by OfficeMax, is to shut all 19 of its stores. In the U.S., Office Depot, which has merged with OfficeMax, has announced it will shut at least 400 of its stores by the end of 2016.

The closures are a response to a rapid shift in the purchasing habits of customers, most of whom do their buying online, rarely stepping inside a retail outlet.

Twitter Fail for the NYPD

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Twitter currently has 241 million users worldwide, and 77 per cent of the company’s users access the social media platform via its mobile app.

So, with such a huge mobile audience, it must have made sense to some at the New York Police Department (NYPD) to launch #myNYPD, a Twitter PR campaign that asked citizens to tweet photos of friendly interactions with NYPD.

Instead, many New Yorkers posted an angry stream of photos depicting police brutality, including violent take-downs and images of police shooting victims.

The NYPD, responding to media questions about the department’s social media outreach effort, declared the #myNYPD campaign successful.

Mack begs to differ. Social media can do wonders for brands, social causes, charities and communities. But it can also turn around and bite you as fast as an out-of-control police dog.

Hard Times for Old-School Journalism

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Mack’s daughter is looking at life after high school. Mack wants her to keep her options open and get a good job.

He, as a former journalist and journalism school grad, had one piece of advice: Steer clear of any traditional journalism post-secondary programs.

Why would anyone go into old-school print, radio and TV journalism? Earlier this month, the CBC announced more than 650 layoffs over the next two years, many of them in news rooms. Last week the Toronto Star laid off all 11 full-time page editors, outsourcing the work to a third-party company.

Legacy journalism has been gutted by the Internet. Online ads have decimated traditional revenue and online news sources render old-school journalists irrelevant.

But the technology-pounding legacy journalism is creating a new media and digital journalism. Learning new media skills and becoming more entrepreneurial, digital journalists are finding jobs. Seems the Toronto Star is hiring eight new digital journalists.

First Impressions

Monday, April 7th, 2014

One of Canada’s spring rituals is that high school and university students across the country learn how to write a cover letter, a resume and how to prepare for job interviews.

The other day, Mack’s daughter, clutching her much-revised resume, cover letter and wearing one of her mother’s navy blue outfits, headed to class for her mock job interview. Apparently it went well.

But after years of interviewing applicants for jobs and training programs Mack has sat through some very bad interviews. Here’s how to make a good first impression:

• Be on time – a basic time management skill.
• Be prepared – it says you care.
• Be interested – it’s not all about you; ask questions.
• Be focused – keep to the point and fill in details if asked.
• Be clean – shower, shave, clean, shine, press and brush.

Deadly Digital Distractions

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Mack’s daughter can start driving this summer. It’s going to be a stressful summer. It’s not her new skill that worries him; it’s all the other distracted drivers.

This month the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) reported that distracted driving is the top cause of youth vehicle accidents. Over the past five years 34% of young drivers 16 – 21 years old involved in crashes resulting in injuries or deaths were distracted.

While young women were less likely than young men to be involved in a crash, when women were in an accident it was most often because they were distracted drivers, says ICBC.

On average 39 young people are killed and 7,100 are injured in vehicle accidents each year in BC. Increasingly the cause of the crashes is driving while texting, talking and being online.

35 Million Free Images (Lemur Selfie Included)

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Mack added “Selfie” to his laptop dictionary this afternoon after reading about a 12 year old lemur at the London zoo named Bekily who, grabbing a camera from a zoo keeper, snapped several photos, including a pretty good selfie.

The animal’s easy adoption of digital technology happened on the very same day the world’s largest photo agency, Getty Images, announced it would share more than 35 million images from its vast library for free.

Getty will now allow online, non-commercial, sharing of its news, sports, entertainment, archive and stock photos for personal and educational social media and blogging use.

According to the agency the decision is in response to widespread and copyright-flouting use of its images online.

Happy 25th www

Monday, March 17th, 2014

A belated happy 25 years for the world wide web this month. It was on March 12, 1989 that a British inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, (now Sir Berners-Lee) first proposed to make information sharing possible via a worldwide web of linked computers.

For those too young to remember the screech of a dial up modem, the agony of waiting for images to load line by line and a time before Google when you instead had to “Ask Jeeves” here are 9 ways the www has changed our world:

  1. Staying in touch with loved ones, almost anywhere on earth
  2. Finding the answer to random questions
  3. Avoiding lineups at stores, banks and ticket counters
  4. Self-diagnosis of life-threatening diseases
  5. Job Hunting
  6. Dating
  7. Binge TV/Movie watching
  8. Running a business
  9. Protesting, whining, and oversharing

Empty CUP

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Old style journalism, built on outdated technology, advertising and news consumption habits, is hurting.

So it didn’t surprise Mack – who started out as a reporter for the Carleton University student paper decades ago – to learn the Canadian University Press (CUP) student newspaper network will cut all 12 of its part time staff this week.

Started as a news sharing cooperative in 1938, CUP charges a substantial fee to act as a news curation source for student newspapers across Canada. Something any undergrad with a smartphone can now do for free.

Cup’s desperate financial shape – it has lost 35 of 90 student newspaper clients in the past decade – is just the latest example of old media’s fight to stay relevant in the digital age.

To make matters worse CUP was recently audited by Canada Revenue Agency and ordered to pay a $9,000 fine for incorrect taxes.

Which means, unfortunately for CUP, the only certainty is death and taxes.